The FAA needs to show even greater support for general aviation than what is in a key short-term strategic planning document known as the FAA Flight Plan.
That is the message in a letter from AOPA President Phil Boyer to FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell.
“AOPA believes the agency needs to put a special emphasis on preserving and improving America’s general aviation airports, increasing all-weather access to those airports, and finding an unleaded alternative to today’s low-lead aviation gasoline,” said Boyer.
Each year the FAA Flight Plan looks at the coming five years and what the agency’s management initiatives and priorities should be.
Boyer praised the agency for work already done on behalf of GA airports, but noted that more is needed due to continuing pressure on those airports.
“The agency has done excellent work in helping to protect and preserve general aviation throughout the country and this must be a continued area of emphasis that is included in the FAA’s Flight Plan,” he wrote. “America’s airports are the access point for the nation to the air transportation network—without a robust airport network, the country’s ability to maintain its leading role in the world economic arena will be adversely affected.”
Boyer noted that the Joint Planning and Development Office, which is leading efforts to implement the next generation air traffic control system, has identified the need to preserve the nation’s airport system and called on the FAA to do all it can to help the preservation effort.
“The FAA must build on this visionary work and focus resources on developing plans, policies, and budgets that not only preserve the airports that we have today, but also ensure their future through infrastructure investments.”
One of the ways the FAA can show ongoing support for GA airports is to continue its robust implementation of satellite-based precision instrument approaches using the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Those approaches mean that an airport’s usefulness is enhanced because more aircraft can use them in a greater variety of weather conditions.
“WAAS avionics...enable pilots to use more than 1,000 new precision WAAS LPV approaches, many at airports where there is no other precision approach landing system,” Boyer wrote Sturgell. “However, without the continued expansion of LPV approaches, the potential benefits available from the WAAS system are underutilized.” Satellite-based LPV approaches provide guidance similar to a ground-based instrument landing system (ILS).
The GA community recognizes the need to find a successor to the current leaded aviation gasoline.
In his letter, Boyer called on the agency to continue explicit support for research efforts to find an unleaded alternative. “The establishment of a strategy in 2009 and the implementation of that strategy in the follow-on years will provide the public with confidence that all elements of aviation are concerned about the future of our environment,” he wrote.
Boyer noted that AOPA members are generally optimistic about the future of general aviation, but “the FAA needs to remain focused on providing pilots with a diverse and robust integrated airport system, services that support operations at general aviation airports in all-weather conditions, and the ability to successfully transition from today’s low-lead gasoline to a completely unleaded gasoline.
“Including these key issues in the FAA Flight Plan will ensure that the agency is fully focused on the right areas for general aviation’s future,” he concluded.